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Chapter 9: Mennonite and Hutterite Settlements


Mennonite Settlements

“The Mennonites refused to bear arms and…fled from one country to another in the Old World to avoid persecution for their beliefs. Those who came to Manitoba had originally moved from Holland to East Prussia and subsequently migrated from there to southern Russia in the latter part of the eighteenth century. By the middle of the nineteenth century they were exceedingly prosperous but fearful in the seventies that they would soon be compelled to do military service, many chose to move on again—to Canada and the United States. Of these almost 7,000 came to Manitoba, between 1874 and 1880…. The Mennonites were the first big group of agriculturalists to come to western Canada and the dominion was happy to grant them exclusive use (initially) of two large blocks [of land]. Eight townships were reserved for them east of the Red River and a further seventeen townships west of the river.”[i]

“In sharp contrast to homesteaders from Eastern Canada and the “Old Country” the Mennonites chose to settle in nucleated village communities. This was done for agricultural reasons in part (allowing a more equitable distribution of land available) but served a more important function in helping to maintain the group’s identity as a separate people….

They were not…able to ignore the survey system entirely but they were able initially to modify the rectangular grid to satisfy their own requirements. And from 1876 onwards they did so legally, since in that year the government amended the Dominion Lands Act to allow both Icelanders and Mennonites to settle in villages, relieving them of the normal legislative requirement that every homesteader live in a house on his own quarter section and improve the land grant he himself had received from the Crown.”[ii]

“Each homesteader signed the village’s agreement to share the land, even though the official title for each quarter section belonged to an individual. A village was established in which each settler was allocated a narrow plot of land running back from the main village street. The plot was to provide space for a house, barns, and a garden, and overnight space for cattle. The remainder of the homestead land belonging to villagers was divided into three equal parcels plus a slightly larger one for pasturage.

Each villager was given a strip of land in each of the three fields for his personal use, so that all the land in each field was allocated. This not only preserved the old village pattern of land use but also helped assure equal land quality for all settlers. In the early years, neither pasture nor fields were fenced. …Some of the villages began to disintegrate almost at once, and the majority of them disappeared”[iii] but in 1995, 17 were still in existence in the west reserve. Also the field system soon broke down and “the last of the old field systems was abandoned in the nineteen twenties.”[iv]

Because of the land division system the remaining villages have a very definite linear form that contrasts markedly with the T-type railway-based villages and the angular grid of villages based on the DLS system.


[i] Tyman, J. and D. Where on Earth: Mid Latitude Grasslands (Library Edition). Brisbane, Atham Educational, 1978, 18.

[ii] Tyman, J. and D. op. cit., 1978, 18 and 35.

[iii] See Richtik, J. T. “Mennonite Reserves” in The Geography of Manitoba: Its Land and Its People eds. J. Welsted, J. Everitt and C. Stadel. Winnipeg: The University of Manitoba Press, 1996, figure 7.3.2, 106.

[iv] Richtik op. cit., 1996, 105-106.

9.1: Villages in the West Mennonite Reserve

The photo shows all or part of nine Mennonite villages in the west reserve: Gnadenthal 1, Neuenberg 2, Hochfeld 3, Friedensfeld 4, Blumenfeld 5, Reinland 6, Schoenwiese 7, Rosengart 8, and Haskett 9. The villages have been superimposed on the square grid pattern of the DLS. In the case of Neuenberg and the eastern part of Reinland 10, the village road runs along a section line, and in most other cases the village streets harmonize with the DLS system in that they run north/south or east/west. However, the streets do not coincide with section or quarter section lines, and in the case of Gnadenthal and the western part of Reinland 11, the street is at an angle to the DLS lines. Houses within the villages are closely spaced along the streets resulting in linear villages. The narrow fields running back from the houses in the old field system have been mainly obliterated by field amalgamation, but remnants can be seen in the western part of Reinland 12. It is noticeable that the scattered farmsteads—two, three, or four per section—so common in other parts of agricultural Manitoba are largely absent here, although a few examples do exist 13, possibly owned by farmers who moved out from the villages years after they were established.

The land shown here is part of the Lake Agassiz plain drained by slow eastward-flowing streams, Buffalo Creek 14 in the south and Buffalo Drain 15 further north. Very faint light-toned lines 16 are Lake Agassiz strandlines, one of which in the southeast determines the field shape 17.

The southern part of the photo lies within the U.S.A. (boundary is indicated by the dashed line). The survey system is similar to the DLS, but north/south section lines north and south of the border do not coincide, accounting for the jog on highway 32 just south of the border 18. A well-developed system of east/west 19 and north/south 20 shelterbelts can be seen south of the border. These are designed to lessen wind erosion in this flat intensively farmed area. They are not so common north of the border, but examples exist in several locations 21. Most sections are divided into long narrow fields 22 in contrast to quarter section-sized fields in parts of southwestern Manitoba.

Transport routes include north/south PTH 32 23 and east/west PR 201 24, as well as several gravel roads along section lines. The faint light-toned line in the northeast is a buried oil pipeline 25. The absence of railway lines is noticeable, in contrast to other rural areas in Manitoba.

Figure 9.1: Villages in the West Mennonite Reserve

Figure 9.1: Villages in the West Mennonite Reserve

Figure 9.1

Vertical air photograph: MB90019-44

Flight height: 31,000 feet a.s.l.; lens focal length: 153.211 mm

Scale: 1:57,600 (approx.)

Date: May 14, 1990

Location: Townships 1 and 2; Ranges 3 and 4 WI

Map sheets: 1:250,000 62H Winnipeg

1:50,000 62H/4 Altona

9.2: Villages in the West Mennonite Reserve


This very flat area is part of the Lake Agassiz plain with fertile soils and drainage by slow eastward flowing streams—Buffalo Drain 1 in the south, Rosenheim Drain 2 in the centre, and an unnamed stream in the north 3. The latter disappears just after crossing two indistinct Lake Agassiz strandlines 4. Four Mennonite villages—Blumenfeld 5, Friedensfeld 6, Hochfeld 7, and Neuenberg 8 are located on this photo that is at a slightly larger scale than that in figure 9.1. Friedensfeld 6 is very much smaller than the others with only a few houses.[i] The other three settlements have streets paralleling the DLS, but none of the streets lies on a section line or a quarter section line. They are noticeable for the careful planting of trees, not only as protection against wind and sun but also to improve the settlement’s appearance. They all have houses located along a main street that results in a linear settlement. In the case of Hochfeld 7 the street runs north/south a little over a quarter mile west of a north/south section line which is followed by PTH 32 9. The road is raised above the level of the surrounding land allowing snow to be blown off it in winter. A ditch on either side of the road gathers snow in winter and water in the spring and summer. Access to the fields east of Hochfeld is obtained by a series of embankments 10. A few dispersed farms with well-developed shelterbelts 11 can be seen near some section lines, probably established by individuals who decided to leave the villages.

Section lines and quarter section lines of the DLS are clearly visible. In this intensively farmed area most fields are divided into narrow north/south 12 or east/west 13 trending strips. Field shelterbelts planted mainly to protect against wind erosion trend east/west 14 or north/south 15.

PTH 32 9 is the main highway, and the faint light-toned line in the northeast 16 is a buried oil pipeline. As with figure 9.1there is no railway line in this area.

Figure 9.2: Villages in the West Mennonite Reserve

Figure 9.2: Villages in the West Mennonite Reserve

Figure 9.2

Vertical air photograph: A21176-29

Flight height: 18,360 feet a.s.l.; lens focal length: 152.63 mm

Scale: 1:35,800 (approx.)

Date: August 6, 1969

Location: Townships 1 and 2; Range 4 WI

Map sheets: 1:250,000 62H Winnipeg

1:50,000 62H/4 Altona


[i] The name of Friedensfield was officially changed to Friedensfeld West in 1976 to avoid confusion with another Friedensfield located south of Steinbach. Holm, G. ed. Geographical Names of Manitoba. Winnipeg: Manitoba Conservation. 2000, 87.

9.3: Rosetown and Kronsthal in the West Mennonite Reserve

Rosetown 1 (originally called Rosenort) and Kronsthal 2 are located in the central part of the west Mennonite reserve. Rosetown still exists but “Kronsthal” is a good example of a fossilized settlement, abandoned in the twenties in favour of a new home in Paraguay. The cottonwoods remain (in fact they appear more well-developed than in Rosetown), and it is possible to trace the course of the street and establish the location of many of the homes. But the village is for all intents and purposes abandoned[i] although a few buildings can still be seen.

Rosetown still exists as a village. Numerous long narrow buildings 3 exist on either side of the street 4 producing a linear village similar to the strassendorf (street village) found in many ports of Europe. The early buildings in Mennonite villages “were fashioned according to the patterns used “ back home”, and the house and barn were always connected. Houses averaged 7.5 metres in width and 12 metres in length; the attached barn was usually identical in width but slightly longer as a rule. The gable end of the house faced the street, and the other end was attached to the barn. This was a decided advantage in winter, as a man could attend his stock without leaving the shelter of his building, and it had an additional merit as an economy since it saved the cost of one outside wall.[ii] Although the photo is large–scale, it is not big enough to see parts of buildings, but it can be seen that buildings have long axes at right angles to the street. The street of Rosetown lies along a section line, but that in Kronsthal 5 lies just east of a north/south section line.

In this rich agricultural region sections and quarter section lines can be seen, but the land is divided into many long narrow fields trending east/west 6 or north/south 7. Outside the village there is little evidence of settlement, except one farmstead in the northeast surrounded by shelterbelts 8.

Two poorly defined Lake Agassiz strandlines are seen in the southwest 9.

Figure 9.3: Rosetown and Kronsthal in the West Mennonite Reserve

Figure 9.3: Rosetown and Kronsthal in the West Mennonite Reserve

Figure 9.3

Vertical air photograph: A11635-111

Flight height: 8,740 feet a.s.l.; lens focal length: 6 inches

Scale: 1:16,700 (approx.)

Date: July 29, 1948

Location: Township 1; Ranges 2 and 3 WI

Map sheets: 1:250,000 62H Winnipeg

1:50,000 62H/4 Altona


[i] Tyman, J. and D. op. cit., 1978, 42.

[ii] Tyman, J. and D. op. cit., 1978, 37.


9.4: The Springhill Hutterite Colony, Northwest of Neepawa

Hutterite Colonies

“Hutterite farming communities are found throughout most of southern Manitoba…. Their village type settlements, known as colonies, consist of about 15 families or 100 people, with some being larger and some smaller. They are large-scale producers of crops and livestock.”[i] In 1992 there were 81 colonies in Manitoba, but by 2007 there were about 116.

“Factors influencing the location of colonies are availability of good agricultural land, well-removed from villages and towns; a water supply source; and access to the provincial road system, although they are not usually related to the railway system. There is really no pattern to settlements, but they usually follow a basic layout, with some variations depending on terrain and group choice. In many colonies the family homes encircle a central park, while the barns and other facilities form an outer circle or ring… The communal kitchen/dining hall is centrally located; on most colonies church services are conducted in part of the complex. Each colony has a kindergarten and a school.”[ii] In the past, formal education finished at grade 8, but there has been a recent push for further education including university. Brandon University now runs a program specifically for Hutterites, and some take regular courses.


The colony 1, five miles northwest of Neepawa, is located by a creek 2 that drains eventually to the Whitemud River. It is located on a provincial gravel road 3 with the CN railway line 4 just to the south of that. Two dugouts 5 to east and west serve the colony.

The scale of the photo is too small for definite identification of buildings, but some deductions can be made. The people’s houses are probably located in the southwest, protected by a large shelterbelt of trees to north and west 6. Springhill is known locally as a hog-producing colony; the two long buildings east of the residences 7 are probably hog barns. A group of buildings to the north 8 probably include animal houses and machinery sheds.

The photo shows part of township 15 range 15WI where the DLS was not accurate. In particular, section 30, township 15, range 15WI 9 is a parallelogram rather than a square; its southern boundary is followed by a gravel road 10 which is far from the usual east/west alignment.

Figure 9.4: The Springhill Hutterite Colony, Northwest of Neepawa

Figure 9.4: The Springhill Hutterite Colony, Northwest of Neepawa

Figure 9.4

Vertical air photograph: A18624-99

Flight height: 9,445 feet a.s.l.; lens focal length: 152.13 mm

Scale: 1:16,700 (approx.)

Date: September 11, 1964

Location: Township 15, Ranges 15 and 16 WI

Map sheets: 1:250,000 62J Neepawa

1:125,000 62J/8W Neepawa

1:50,000 62J/5 Clanwilliam


[i] Ryan, J. “Hutterites in Manitoba” in Welsted, Everitt, and Stadel op. cit., 1996, 233-234.

[ii] Ryan, J. op. cit., 1996, 233-234.

9.5: The Spring Valley Hutterite Colony at Glen Souris

The colony 1 is located near the junction of the Assiniboine River 2 and the Little Souris River 3 that supplies the colony’s water. The area is located on the upper part of the Assiniboine Delta with two Lake Agassiz strandlines in evidence; one is indicated by tonal variations 4 while the other, which must be close to the highest of all the Agassiz strandlines, is a definite wooded ridge 5. Meander scrolls 6 and one abandoned meander 7 are located north of the Assiniboine’s present channel. The sandy nature of the soils is indicated by tonal variation in the fields 8.

The colony that is served by a provincial gravel road is located on both sides of the Little Souris River. The human residences are probably located north of the river, protected by a still growing shelterbelt 9. The long narrow buildings, especially the eastern-most one 10, are probably animal barns.

Figure 9.5: The Spring Valley Hutterite Colony at Glen Souris

Figure 9.5: The Spring Valley Hutterite Colony at Glen Souris

Figure 9.5

Vertical air photograph: A16430-42

Flight height: 10,250 feet a.s.l.; focal length: 152.4 mm

Scale: 1:18,100 (approx.)

Date: October 31, 1958

Location: Township 9; Range 17 WI

Map sheets: 1:250,000 62G Brandon 

1:50,000 62G/13 Brandon

9.6: The Maple Grove Hutterite Colony Northwest of Lauder

9.6a: The Situation in 1968

A gravel road 1 that links up with newly constructed PR 254 2 serves a group of buildings 3 located south of the northeast-flowing Souris River 4. Some of the buildings are protected by trees 5. Surprisingly, the gravel road is not located on a quarter section line 6 but about 500 feet (152 m) to the east. At one stage a weir 7 was built across the Souris River, but it does not seem to exist any more. Tonal variations in the fields 8 indicate the sandy nature of the soils as does the existence of dugouts 9.

9.6b: The Situation in 2007

The Maple Grove Hutterite Colony, an offshoot of Richland Colony near Anola, east of Winnipeg, was purchased about 1977 and was worked on for five years before settlement took place in 1987. There are now more buildings than on the air photo (figure 9.6a); some of them, probably animal barns 1, are located east of the gravel road 2. The colony, which concentrates on chickens, pigs, and cattle, now has its own sewage lagoons 3 located worryingly close to the Souris River 4.

Figure 9.6.a: The Maple Grove Hutterite Colony Northwest of Lauder-The Situation in 1968

Figure 9.6.a: The Maple Grove Hutterite Colony Northwest of Lauder-The Situation in 1968

Figure 9.6a

Vertical air photograph: A20811-32

Flight height: 10,300 feet a.s.l.; lens focal length: 6 inches

Scale: 1:17,100 (approx.)

Date: September 28, 1968

Location: Township 5, Ranges 24 and 25 WI

Map sheets: 1:250,000 62F Virden

1:50,000 62F/7 Hartney

Figure 9.6.b: The Maple Grove Hutterite Colony North of Lauder-The Situation in 2007

Figure 9.6.b: The Maple Grove Hutterite Colony North of Lauder-The Situation in 2007

Figure 9.6b

Google Image 2007

Scale: 1:17,100

Location: Section 24, Township 5, Range 25WI

Map sheets: as for figure 9.6a

9.7: Mennonite Family Farm and a Chicken Farm East of MacGregor

The twinned Trans-Canada Highway 1 passes through the centre of the area shown with the CP railway line to the south 2 and the CN line to the north 3. A group of buildings between the Trans-Canada Highway and the CP line 4 has the appearance of a Hutterite Colony but it is in fact a Mennonite family farm, established in 1953. Image Creek 5 flows from south to north, ultimately to link up with the Whitemud River. It has been dammed just north of the CP line to create a reservoir 6 for the farm. Two buildings 7 have the appearance of family dwellings; several of the others are probably animal barns 8. Grain storage hoppers 9 (for feed) are located nearby. North of the CN line is another group of buildings 10 that is a chicken farm. Two long buildings 11 are poultry barns with round grain strorage bins to the southwest 12. A dark-roofed building in the west 13 is probably the farmhouse.

At the date the photo was taken (May 27) fields were still drying out from the spring melt, so that wet patches 14 are visible in most fields.

Figure 9.7: Mennonite Family Farm and a Chicken Farm East of MacGregor

Figure 9.7: Mennonite Family Farm and a Chicken Farm East of MacGregor

Figure 9.7

Vertical air photograph: MB96001-180

Flight height: 7,000 feet a.s.l.; lens focal length: 152.098 mm

Scale: 1:12,000 (approx.)

Date: May 27, 1996

Location: Townships 11 and 12; Range 10 WI

Map sheets: 1:250,000 62G Brandon 

1:50,000 62G/5 MacGregor